Friday, November 25, 2016

Obituary: Florence Henderson

Actress Florence Henderson, remembered by millions as "Carol Brady" in the cult series The Brady Bunch, has passed away at the age of 82. She died from heart failure.

Henderson had been in show business for many years, starting when she was still in her teens in 1952, starring often in stage musicals. She appeared in road productions of Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, and The King and I. It was during her time in the last mentioned musical she had lost her hearing from a hereditary condition, but surgery restored it.

Eventually, she landed the television role for which she is best remembered. The Brady Bunch was a rather bland comedy, typical of the type of shows Sherwood Schwartz would create and/or produce (look no further than Gilligan's Island to know he pandered to the lowest common denominator). She starred opposite Robert Reed, previously known for his role as Kenneth Preston in the great television series The Defenders, who curiously took the part despite the fact he hated it. In the series, the two characters had each been widowed, with mother Carol having three daughters, while father Mike Brady had three sons. In those days, single parents couldn't be divorced, much less be never-married, on a television comedy series. All the kids were age peers. As that irritating song went, the two widowed adults met, fell in love and all that crap, and got married. In the meantime, they hired a housekeeper (Ann B. Davis, previously of The Bob Cummings Show) to try and referee the bunch of kids, or brats, depending on your point of view.

The Brady Bunch debuted in the fall of 1969 and stayed on the air until 1974. Reviews were mixed, but it didn't matter. It was widely syndicated, helping bring in more money in residuals for Henderson and the other cast members, or so I hope. Somewhere along the way, a cult following emerged and grew. Just why, I do not know. The series spawned sequels and specials, none of which were as successful as the original series.

All three of the adult leads--Reed, Henderson, and Davis--are now dead. All the actors who played the children are still alive, with the oldest of the bunch, Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick, now 62 and 60, respectively.

How fast time flies.

Snip from the article:

Numerous memoirs also kept interest in the show alive, as cast members revealed they were more than just siblings off camera. Barry Williams, who played eldest son Greg Brady, would confess to having a crush on his TV stepmom. Henderson, in her own book, denied having any relationship with Williams, but did acknowledge a fling with former New York City mayor John Lindsay.

The woman who would become America's TV mom was born Feb. 14, 1934, in the small town of Dale in southern Indiana. She was the 10th child of a tobacco sharecropper of Irish descent. The proud Hoosier would later return to Indiana to sing at 23 runnings of the Indianapolis 500 and served as the grand marshal at the 100th edition.

After high school, Henderson moved to New York, where she enrolled in a two-year program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, her studies financed by a theatrical couple who had been impressed by her singing when they saw her perform in high school.

From the YouTube channel of the Archive of American Television, affiliated with the Emmy Awards, Florence Henderson talks about her role as Carol Brady:

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